Thank you so much for agreeing to be a part of The Writing Desk blog.
Imagine I’m about to introduce you to an auditorium, filled with the smiling faces of folks fuelled by caffeine and an eagerness to learn. What would I say?
“Hello everyone, I’d like to introduce…
Vicky Fraser: Copywriter. Entrepreneur. Author. Ran away with the circus.
Here’s the part where we’d sit down and try and look comfortable next to the microphones. Are you sitting comfortably? Then let’s begin…
Can you name the business book that’s always on your desk? (I’m talking about the one that’s covered in pencil marks, coffee stains and has turned down corners…)
There are several, but probably the ones I’ve abused most are Tested Advertising Methods by John Caples, Grow Your Business FAST by Jon McCulloch, and The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. The habit book isn’t so much a business book as a fascinating insight into why we don’t get nearly as much done as we could…
What’s your all-time favourite advertising campaign?
Ooh, good question. I don’t have TV plugged into my house, so I miss out on a lot of them… I think it’s probably the classic DeBeers ads purely because, with their original marketing campaign, DeBeers started the entire diamond engagement ring tradition. Yep: before them, diamond engagement rings just weren’t a thing. If you want a demonstration of the power of advertising, this be it.
Claude Hopkins did something similar with Pepsodent toothpaste, too…
“Everyone has a book in them…” Or so the saying goes. What do you think/know/believe is the secret to good writing?
Writing. Writers write; end of story. There’s this myth that abounds that you have to be in some way extraordinary to be a great writer or even just a writer. That you have to use techniques and tricks. Sure, there are techniques, and sure, some people seem to have more natural talent than others, but the only way to become a good writer is to write more. Write every single day. Extraordinary feats come from doing ordinary things well, over and over and over again.
Oh, and read everything you can get your hands on, too.
If you were just starting out, what advice would you give yourself? Which book or books would you read first?
Stop looking around at what everybody else is doing and figure out what you want to do. Then do it. Ignore the naysayers and negativity; if you want better results than everyone else gets, you have to do things differently from everyone else.
Set good habits from the outset. Read The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, then the classic copywriting books, then write your own book. JFDI.
Silence? Radio? Or music while you work?
Sometimes I have the radio on — 6Music of course. Other times, sweet silence. Depends what I’m writing about and how deeply I need to concentrate.
What are your top three novels of all time – and why?
- To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I first read it at school and it changed something inside me. Changed my entire worldview. If a book can do that, it’s a keeper.
- Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. I’m counting that as an entire novel, because the world he built is utterly real to me. Beneath the humour and silliness, he was an extremely sharp observer of human beings and their strengths and evils. He had a lot to say, important messages to get out there, and he said it beautifully. Plus, Tiffany Aching is one of the best female role models in literature.
- Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything. Not really a novel, I guess, but an extraordinary book anyway, and it reads like a novel. The foreword itself is stunning, on its own.
What’s the best thing you’ve ever written? Why did it rock your world?
My book, Business For Superheroes. Because although I’d been planning on writing a book for a couple of years, part of me never thought I really would write it. I wrote a fucking book! I’m an author! That cracks me up and makes me very proud. It’s very honest, and I feel quite brave for putting that much of myself into something for others to read. Plus, it’s already helped people, and that’s what this game is all about.
What’s the last thing you bought? And yes, that packet of chewing gum counts.
Somewhat mundanely, the last thing I bought was postage from the Post Office’s online service, to post my book out to the people who bought it yesterday. But that’s quite exciting, too (for me at least).
Who was your teenage crush?
Crikey. My teenage years are a bit of a blur. I had a misspent youth. Um, I think probably all the Manic Street Preachers. Talented + thinkers = hot.
Describe the best meal you have ever eaten.
The most perfectly cooked steak in one of our favourite restaurants in Masouri, Kalymnos. Yes, I’m vegetarian. Shut up.
Otherwise, it’s cheese. Anything with cheese.
What’s your favourite tipple?
Gin and tonic.
If I were to give you a private jet, David Attenborough as a tour guide and a month off work – all expenses paid – where would you go and what or who would you write about – and why?
I think I’d need a ship, because I’d choose Antarctica. Is that okay? It’s just staggeringly beautiful. An alien landscape. And there are whales and seals and penguins. I bloody love penguins.
If I can’t have a ship, I choose Costa Rica. We went on our honeymoon but didn’t get to see much of the jungle. So I’d go back and David Attenborough could show me all the wildlife and crazy plants. And explain the bizarre majesty of mangroves.
What’s in your pockets?
Pen and ink, pencil and paper or keyboard and screen? What’s your writing style?
Pen and paper and keyboard and screen. I make notes, plan, and jot down ideas with pen and paper, but write on-screen.
Do you read any blogs or magazines about writing? (And I mean read, not just subscribe to and delete/leave on your desk and recycle?)
Not really. I read loads of articles and blogs on all sorts of topics, but none of them regularly. Unless you count Drayton Bird’s blogs and emails.
Tea or coffee?
Tea. Oh my god I love tea.
Do you have a favourite cup or mug? Can you describe it?
Two. For my first drink of the day, which is fresh-squeezed lemon, honey and hot water, I use my owl and the pussycat mug. For my main cuppa, I have a chunky glass mug, matt black with etched pictures on from Club Row Creations, a promotional items company owned by a friend of mine. It’s just perfect for drinking tea and wrapping your hands around on a cold day.
What was your most adored children’s book? And character?
The Enchanted Wood and The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton. I think Moon Face was my favourite character. Those books were awesome. I still look for giant trees with doors and windows in them, that lead to another world in the clouds.
Your favourite word?
Your most loathed word? (You know, the one that makes you shudder and say “Ew!”?
Hun. As in, short for ‘honey’ as a term of endearment. It makes me literally shake with rage. I don’t know why. But if you call me ‘hun’, I will instantly visualise a thousand painful tortures for you.
Where can we find you? – Browsing online or lost in the aisles of a bookstore?
Well, I don’t go out much, so mostly in Amazon or Abe Books — but when I’m out and I find a great bookstore, particularly a second-hand one, I’m lost.
Favourite song lyric of all time? And why?
Well, this is a tough question! It really depends on my mood. Right now?
“Two drifters, off to see the world
There’s such a lot of world to see
We’re after the same rainbow’s end, waiting, round the bend
My Huckleberry Friend, Moon River, and me”
I love Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and I love that song. There is such a lot of world to see. And we’re all drifters, really. Nobody really knows what the hell’s going on, so we might as well see as much of the world as we can.
Name the artist who is guaranteed to get you up on the dance floor.
Sir Mix-A-Lot’s Baby Got Back. So I can do the Big Butts Dance. No, really.
Or possibly something really cheesy like ABBA.
Do you have any strange writing rituals you’d like to share with us?
Before a big piece of work, I procrastinate with extreme prejudice. Does that count?
What are you working on today? What’s in the pipeline?
I’m putting together a lead generation funnel for my book. Preparing a free chapter PDF, the ads, the follow-up emails, and the sales message.
Describe the last photograph you took.
My little grey cat, Whiskey, climbed up onto the mantlepiece yesterday evening. We were sitting on the floor eating our tea, and the mantlepiece is a huge oak shelf about shoulder height. She sat there and glared at me. It was quite menacing, so I took a photograph.
What piece of advice really changed you as a writer?
Be yourself. Write as you talk, and put yourself into it. Don’t pretend to be something you’re not. (Of course, this is when writing my own stuff. When writing for clients, write as they talk.)
What was the last thing you wrote that had nothing to do with your job?
A thank you card for my husband’s cousin, for hosting 37 members of his family for the annual Fraser Worm-Charming Championships. This is a true story.
What’s your favourite quote about the process of writing?
Just one? Nope, sorry. Here are my favourite quotes about writing:
“Writing is the most fun you can have by yourself.” Terry Pratchett
“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” Ernest Hemingway
“Write drunk. Edit sober.” Ernest Hemingway
“Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers.” Isaac Asimov
Who is your favourite Mad Man – or Woman?
Peggy. Ten times smarter than all the men on that show.
Name your favourite film.
Again, depends on my mood!
The Day After Tomorrow. (No, really; shut up.) The Matrix (the first one, the rest were shite). Amélie. The Fall. Pan’s Labyrinth.
Which book or books is/are by your bed today?
I am always reading a minimum of three books:
Sourcery by Terry Pratchett
God Is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens
Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E Frankl
Skyfaring: A Journey With a Pilot by Mark Vanhoenacker
And on my Kindle: Danse Macabre by Laurell K. Hamilton (vampire porn, basically).
Who was or is your greatest teacher?
You know, I’m not sure. Several people, I think. Drayton Bird, Jon McCulloch, Peter Thomson, Mike Seddon. My grandparents.
Who is your favourite artist?
Kevin Parrish. We commissioned a painting the Lord Leycester Hospital, where we got married. He’s a local Warwick artist and he paints these wonderful black and white pictures of local landmarks, usually with a full moon in the sky.
Where do you like to work best – is it at a desk, in an office or in a coffee shop? And would you send us a picture of where the magic happens?
At my desk, in my front room, in front of the French doors looking into my garden.